Questions posed over pollution from houseboats on River Adur

The Adur Residents Environmental Action (AREA) group has expressed concern over houseboats, water pollution and a pause to water sampling.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 3:12 pm
The River Adur

AREA, which aims to address air pollution and the health of the population in the district,  asked Adur District Council’s planning committee what steps it is taking to mitigate pollution from houseboats.

During ADC’s planning committee yesterday (September 7) an AREA member said: “One of the objectives of the Adur houseboats good practice guide is to protect and improve the quality of the River Adur.

“This is reinforced by policy 35 of the local plan relating to water quality and adequate sewage treatment facilities.

“We [AREA] understand that testing of the river’s pollution levels has been stopped. That means we no longer know what the levels of bacteria, such as E. coli, are.”

The AREA member asked what plans the council has to resume water testing and to address the potential disposal of raw sewage by houseboats, adding: “Given the increased use of the river for water sports, this is surely a health issue.”

Council officers confirmed that River Adur water sampling was suspended for a total of ten months but it resumed in May this year.

Monthly water sampling takes place at several sites along the river to protect those who use it for leisure activities, such as kayaking. The results can be found at Adur and Worthing Councils’ website.

However, when it comes to houseboats, the planning committee can do little about water quality, according to officers.

They explained:  “As a planning committee, we are reactive to a planning application coming in, so issues like health and watersports aren’t necessarily for [this committee] unless we get a planning application.

“The most we can do is have a policy in the local plan, and equally the houseboats good practice guide.

“If we don’t have a planning application we can’t impose these but we are taking the opportunity, when we do get an application, to point residents in the direction of the guide.”

The Adur houseboats good practice guide outlines the rules surrounding houseboats on the south side of the River Adur.

More than 40 mooring plots are at the site but it is outside the district’s built up area boundary and is technically classed as countryside.

As a result, the guide was developed to protect the natural environment surrounding the boats and it states that development is ‘not generally permitted’ unless ‘strict criteria’ are met.

Houseboat owners usually need planning permission for new houseboats, a change to the surrounding land, alterations and constructing jetties among other things.

The Adur guide notes that: “There is little guidance, nationally or locally, specifically related to this form of accommodation.”